Automotive fun comes in many forms. Lots of people like to load their race car onto a trailer, haul it all over creation, tow it home, and then head off down the road to do the same thing the next weekend. For years Peter Romano of West Grove, Pennsylvania, was that guy. Yeah, he had a cruiser for the street, but his kicks came on the dragstrip with a few different cars over the years. See, the fast stuff wasn’t street legal, and the street-legal stuff wasn’t that fast. Romano needed a solution, and today’s world of modern hot rodding provided him with some good choices. As you’ll see, he has employed many of them in the completion of this spectacular ’70 Plymouth Barracuda, with its blown 434ci small-block that cranks out four-digit horsepower.
Having owned a number of cars over the years from many different brands, Romano has always been a Chrysler guy at his core. A ’68 Charger, a ’70 Road Runner, and a ’72 ‘Cuda have carried him though spans of his gearhead life and Romano knew he wanted back into an E-Body. He had goals going into the process: “I really wanted to find a car that did not need a complete rebuild to start with,” Peter told us. “I wanted a solid car to start with that I could finish the way I wanted it and when I found this car for sale that had just been through a rotisserie style body restoration and that was in great shape, I knew it was the right car to start with.” When Romano received the car it was already a pretty proven commodity when it came to the speed department. The previous owner had run it down into the 9.60s at 140 mph so the chassis and that end of things were totally in order. It was the horsepower that proved complicated.
“I got an idea in my head that I wanted 1,000 hp, and so I started reading and researching a lot of different options,” Romano said. “I was leaning toward a traditional Roots-style blower and the more I went down that road, it just didn’t seem like it was going to be what I wanted it to be so I considered other options.” The other option he chose was a ProCharger. These centrifugal blowers provide users more—and some would say better—options on managing heat and boost than their belt-driven intake manifold style cousins. Romano was also adamant about sticking with a carb and not leaping to EFI. Blow-through carbs have been a proven commodity for decades but that doesn’t mean that everyone is exactly conversant on them and that is where Romano’s 1,000hp dream began to stretch itself out a little. Problems with an initial carb and a tuner who was not comfortable really giving the engine any oats on the dyno resulted in what could only be described as disappointing numbers for Romano.
After being pitched yet another EFI conversion for money he didn’t have or want to spend, Romano was pretty crestfallen. His proverbial white knight arrived in the form of a shop in Delaware known (ironically) as Performance Injection Equipment. This Mopar-specific shop delivered the goods for Romano with a speed, swiftness, and confidence no one had before. “I dropped the car off to those guys, and they called me a short time later and told me it was all set,” Romano told us with a laugh. “They were great and without them this thing may still not be where it should be power-wise. It was only October of 2015 when the car was dyno’d and finally cruised in public because of all the delays that had occurred in the build process. That being said, the payoff for all the previous delays was a swift delivery, and it was pretty cool.
Since we have been blabbering so much about the engine, you’re dying to know the nitty-gritty. The engine is a 434ci stroker based off of a Chrysler 340X block. The crank is a Mopar Performance 4-inch piece and it is swinging some Eagle H-beam rods and Wiseco pistons to the tune of 8.8:1 compression. As you already know, the reason for the low compression is that this engine is being force-fed by a ProCharger F1-R centrifugal blower. Between the blower and those pistons lie some great parts. There’s a CSU Pro Series blow-through carb, an Indy intake manifold, and a set of CNC-ported Indy 360-2 heads that direct all that air and fuel from the blower and carb. The heads have 2.08/1.65-inch Ferrea valves in them along with K-Motion velvet springs, and T&D rocker arms. A COMP solid-roller cam is the brains of the operation. Duration on that bad boy is 278/286 to let all the air in and all the air out through the combustion cycles. Lighting all this goodness off is an MSD ignition system with a Pro-Billet distribu
tor, a Blaster coil, and a Digital 7 ignition box. Base timing is 30 degrees and under boost it is set at 19 degrees. TTi headers with 2-inch primaries carry the spent exhaust gases away through a 3-inch exhaust system and Dynomax Ultra-flo welded mufflers.
Backing an engine that makes all this power is a lot of work and Romano made some stout choices to insure that his 1,000hp mill would not be running through a transmission and rear rated for far less than that. Not deviating from the Mopar plan in the transmission department, Romano went to Sean Wiley at Pro-Formance Transmission for the built 727 TorqueFlite that also came with a transbrake and uses a super shield to protect everyone in the car from flying parts in the event of a catastrophe. The torque converter is a 4,500-stall piece from Frank Lupo and Dynamic Converter. The driveshaft is a large diameter aluminum piece with nice yokes that hold onto 1350-series universal joints to make sure the power is not going to be interrupted. The final piece in the power equation is a 3.70-geared 9-inch third member that uses an aluminum centersection and Moser axles.
Now let’s talk about those tires because they’re a defining factor for what’s cool. Nothing is cooler right now than small-tire drag racing and those Mickey Thompson radials on the back of Romano’s car rule the roost at the digs for street-style cars. If this thing had been built in the 1990s it would have had big steam rollers under it. Today’s look is neater and it opened a new door to long-time drag racer Romano. “I have raced lots of cars with big slicks under them,” Peter told us. “I’m looking forward to the challenge of applying all this horsepower to the track with the smaller tires.” He won’t be doing that alone though as the suspension in the car has been optimized for that activity with Calvert monoleaf springs out back and QA1 adjustable shocks. Up front the Mopar Performance springs and Summit Racing shocks control movement along with some Mopar Performance torsion bars.
Making 1,000 hp stick is not easy but with the chassis components Romano has under that car, it should be laying down some numbers at Cecil County Dragway when the place opens back up in the spring. The engine fiasco took Peter out of drag racing season this year but he’ll be ready for it come spring!
This story originally appeared in Hot Rod.
1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda
Peter Romano, 54, West Grove, PA
Type: 434ci Chrysler small-block
Bore x stroke: 4.155 inches x 4.0 inches
Block: 340X factory high performance casting
Rotating assembly: Mopar Performance crank, Eagle H-Beam Rods, 8.8:1 Wiseco pistons
Cylinder heads: Indy 360-2 aluminum heads, 18-degree valve angle, CNC ported
Camshaft: COMP Cam 278/286 duration
Valvetrain: 2.08/1.65 Ferrea valves, K-motion valvesprings, T&D rocker arms, Smith Brothers pushrods
Induction: Indy intake manifold, CSU Pro series 950cfm blow-through carb,ProCharger F-1R
Fuel system: MagnaFuel pump, MagnaFuel pressure control system, boost referenced
Exhaust: TTi Headers with 2-inch primaries and Dynomax Ultra Flo welded mufflers, 3-inch pipes
Cooling: Griffin Aluminum pro-series radiator
Output: 1,037 hp at 6,500 rpm and 889 lb-ft at 5,550 rpm
Engine built by: Awesome Engines in Shelbyville, Delaware
Transmission: 727 TorqueFlite standard ratios and a transbrake built by Pro-Formance Trans
Driveshaft: aluminum with 1350-series universal joints
Rearend: Ford 9” rear with aluminum center section and 3.70 Pro Gears and Moser axles
Front suspension: Mopar Performance front springs, Summit Racing shocks, Mopar Performance torsion bars, stock front steering and spindles
Rear suspension: Calvert monoleaf springs, QA-1 adjustable shocks, Competition Engineering wheelie bars
Brakes: Wilwood Dynalite Pro Series discs front and back
WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: Weld Racing Pro Star wheels
Tires: 28×4.5 Mickey Thompson front and 325/50-15 Mickey Thompson back